This story is part two of a feature about Drielle Tousignant, a young Victoria mother who went through desperately needed transplant surgery only for the kidney to die hours later. You can find that story here.
When Esquimalt resident Brandi Chapman decided to donate a kidney to a young woman she hardly knew, she never guessed the outcome would end in such devastation.
Besides donating a kidney, Chapman had to take unpaid leave from her job as a home care aid and relocate to Vancouver for a week prior to the surgery and for a month following for recovery.
On May 14, 2018, Chapman underwent surgery which entailed removing one of her healthy kidneys and transplanting it into 31-year old Drielle Tousignant (see story here). Following the surgery, initially everything seemed to be fine, but then Chapman received word the kidney she had so generously donated had died due to a blood clot just hours after the transplant was completed.
The Vancouver Courier had some questions for Chapman about what it was like to receive the devastating news and why she decided to help someone she had no real connection with.
What made you decide to become a living donor?
Honestly, I still can’t answer that in a way that would make sense to anyone else. I am a helper and thought it was the right thing to do. After finding out I was a blood-type match, in my heart I knew there was no turning back.
How did you hear about Drielle?
We were Facebook friends before — since 2014.
What did you have to do to prepare for the surgery, both mentally and physically?
Not much. I wanted to lose 10 pounds even though I wasn’t told to. I really did nothing, not even research. All of my efforts went into fundraising for time off work.
Were you nervous or scared on the day of surgery?
A little, but not as much as I thought — or as much as others might assume. I cried three days beforehand, but after nearly a year between application and surgery, by that point I was eager to get it over with instead of just talking about it.
When did you find out the kidney had to be removed?
Ugh, that day. That was early the following morning. When I was awake — which was only a few minutes at a time — I would ask about Drielle and kept being told she was still downstairs. I was moved to a room within hours, so I guess I knew something was not right. But I never said anything. I would assume the timeline was around 16 hours after Drielle’s operation.
What were you feeling at that time?
No words. Can’t remember exactly — just shock and confusion. The surgeon had started that conversation off with, “Things aren’t looking good for Drielle,” and that made it sound as if she was dying. So to be honest, I suppose initially I was relieved in a way that it could be fixed by taking the kidney out, and that everyone involved would be okay, but after a few minutes I cried again and thought, “Why me? Was it my fault? Was it my kidney? Did I really just go through all of this for nothing?” It definitely took some time to process, but it’s never made sense.
How long was your recovery?
One month — back to work fulltime, but on restricted duties the first day of week five. Partially out of boredom, but I also ran out of money pretty quickly.
It was such a kind thing you did, but do you have any regrets?
I don’t necessarily regret doing it, but obviously I wish it had had a better outcome. Drielle and I barely talk, but I guess that’s not all that strange as we didn’t before, so perhaps in another life I would have saved my kidney for someone I knew better/more intimately. But, you can’t live your life always wondering “what if?” Somebody had to step up and there was nothing stopping me. I also regret maybe not being in an ideal financial position, because had it not been for the tremendous outpouring of support from the community, there is no way I’d have survived being unemployed for an entire month. All in all, its improved my outlook and perspective, so I really can’t harbour true regret.
Any advice for anyone considering becoming a living donor?
Do it. Please do it. I can only speak to kidney donation, but my life hasn’t changed at all. I don’t need two kidneys — no one does. Who am I to deny a functioning one to someone who only wants to avoid a lifetime of dialysis? My outcome has a statistic of two out of 1000 in all of North America annually. The odds of a transplant lasting 10-plus years are nearly 90 per cent so how many other ways can you be directly responsible for someone’s quality of life? When someone includes organ donation in their story, no one is ever going to tell them they’re anything other than a legend. I promise you. That is how it changes your life.
For more information about the Living Donor Program, visit transplantbc.ca.